Sunday, 15 March 2020
An open letter to fellow clergy and bishops of the Church of Ireland and other religious leaders of all faiths.
Dear friends – I write to you as the rector of a
parish within the commuter belt of
city and the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough. This weekend I took the
difficult decision to close all of our churches until the end of the month or
indeed until advised that the current Coronavirus threat has passed. This was
not an easy decision and not one I took lightly but I did it because I was
conscious that ANY public gathering increases the risk of spreading infection
within the community. Dublin
It is not just those who might attend church that are vulnerable but everyone they subsequently interface with which will inevitably include the aged and the immuno-compromised. I like many in the
am rector of a parish where the
age profile is very high and so a significant number of my parishioners are in
a category (80+) where if they catch the virus, one in eight of them will likely
die! Please dwell on that for a moment! These are people who have served our
church all their lives and have sustained it through thick and thin and now we
are wilfully risking them these precious twilight years! This is
not a chance I am willing to take! In addition to this I have a number of
recovering cancer patients, transplant patients and those with respiratory
issues who are extremely vulnerable to this virus. Church of Ireland
And I am also conscious that it is not just my parishioners that I have a responsibility towards but also those in the wider community – My church is part of that community and if we are negligent we risk not only our own health but also those who we interface with in our daily lives and we have an equal duty of care to them.
I am aware that the Government in neither jurisdictions has demanded that we close and so those churches that remain open are not in breach of the law but that does not mean that there is no moral imperative to do otherwise!
Is our piety really more important than the health of the most vulnerable members of society?
Do we believe in a God who demands that we sacrifice the vulnerable in order to maintain public worship during a temporary crisis such as this?
If we can say hand on heart that continuing public worship will not increase the risk of infection then all is well but the reality is we cannot and all is not well! This is a chance for those of us of religious faith (no matter what creed or denomination) to stand up for the vulnerable – It’s in the Gospels as far as I recollect…….
NB: I am aware that the bishops of Cashel, Ferns & Ossary & Limerick & Killaloe Dioceses have advised church closures and welcome the wisdom of their respective decisions